Rule Against Perpetuities Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Rule Against Perpetuities, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Rule Against Perpetuities?

(n) Rule against perpetuites is the provision which prohibits endless or prolonged tying up of property rights with an intention to keep the property as a perpetual one. For example a title deed containing a clause which says the property cannot be sold to anybody other than his or her siblings.

History and Meaning of Rule Against Perpetuities

The Rule Against Perpetuities is a common law rule that originated in England in the late 17th century. The purpose of the rule was to prevent property from being tied up for too long a period, as it was considered harmful to commerce and the transfer of property rights. The rule states that a property interest must vest within a certain period of time or it will be considered void.

The period of time for vesting is referred to as the "life in being" plus 21 years. This means that if an interest in property cannot vest within the life of an individual who is currently alive plus 21 years, it is considered perpetually tied up and therefore invalid. The rule can be complicated in practice, and has been the subject of much litigation over the years.

Examples of Rule Against Perpetuities

  1. A landowner creates a trust in which the property will be held for the benefit of their descendants for 100 years. The trust violates the Rule Against Perpetuities because it does not vest within the life of an individual plus 21 years.

  2. A will leaves property to a friend on the condition that they never sell it. This condition could be deemed a violation of the Rule Against Perpetuities, as it would perpetually tie up the property.

  3. A developer creates a restrictive covenant on a piece of land that states it can only be used for a specific purpose, such as a park or green space. If the covenant extends beyond the life in being plus 21 years, it may violate the Rule Against Perpetuities.

Legal Terms Similar to Rule Against Perpetuities

  1. Perpetual trust – a trust that does not have a specific termination date and could potentially violate the Rule Against Perpetuities.

  2. Restraint on alienation – a legal device that restricts the ability of an individual to transfer their property rights, and which may violate the Rule Against Perpetuities.

  3. Estate in fee tail – an estate in land that can only be inherited by certain heirs and which could potentially violate the Rule Against Perpetuities.